A site known for illegal camping was cleaned out this week, filling two 40-foot dumpsters with trash over two days.

The project, coordinated by the Mesa County Sheriff's Office, in partnership with Union Pacific Railroad, was intended to provide a long-term solution to recurring crime and safety issues in the neighborhood.

The effort focused on a stretch between 32½ Road and 33 Road adjacent to the railroad tracks south of F Road.

Mesa County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Megan Terlecky said there was evidence of people setting fires, along with years' worth of hazardous waste, including hypodermic needles.

Along with the illegal camping and its proximity to the railroad tracks, the area presented safety concerns for neighbors, as there have been numerous reports of smoke and signs that people were starting fires at the site.

The thick brush and overgrown trees posed significant fire danger and wildland fire specialists with the Sheriff's Office were concerned that a spark could put nearby neighbors and anyone living there in danger.

"If we were to have a fire there, that could be catastrophic," Terlecky said.

The Sheriff's Office also reported that people who trespass in this area are believed to be a source of recurring crime and safety concerns at businesses in nearby Peach Tree Shopping Center, which range from trespassing to more aggressive behavior.

Before the cleanup began, signs were posted and deputies attempted to let people know to remove any belongings from the sites, as they were going to be cleared out.

"This area has been a concern for almost a decade," Deputy Nick Bouton said.

He said deputies have been talking with residents in the neighborhood to let them know about the operation and they have initiated contacts with some of the individuals living in these areas to let them know what's going on.

Terlecky said there were signs that people have been living in these areas in both summer and winter.

"We want to connect people with resources and want them to live in better living conditions," she said.

After the removal of all the trash, the Sheriff's Office will be doing fire mitigation in the area to alleviate the wildfire hazard.

The brush will be removed, and overgrown trees will be cut back to reduce the risk of fire.

"We're starting here but we hope we can use this as a model for others," she added.

Recommended for you